In 1959, a group calling itself “America’s independent light and power companies” took out a full-page ad in several magazines promising:
Your personal “flying carpet” — Step into it, press a button, and if you go off to market, to a friend’s home, or to your job, take off or land anywhere — no parking problems. Plug into any electric outlet for recharging.
The illustration showed a housewife piloting an aerial vehicle as easily as she would drive the family car, some hundred feet above the home where her husband stood alongside a second such vehicle parked on the carport. A similar ad ran in 1965, this time with Dad behind the wheel of a “flying mobile camper” as a family of four soared above an alpine lake, looking for a site to explore. Those ads promised that the nation’s electric companies would double America’s electrical output in 10 years. Still, their implied promise—that would soon be zipping through the skies in electric hovercrafts—never materialized.
Instead, we saw countless movies and TV shows—The Absent-Minded Professor, The Jetsons, Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, Star Wars, Back to the Future, and Blade Runner, to name just a few—where everything from an abandoned jalopy to a sleek Landspeeder wizzes effortlessly through the air. For 60 years, the dream of a flying car has been embedded in the human psyche, but the people responsible for delivering that dream have failed us. That is, possibly, until now.
Aeromobil is promising “bring to market the flying car that is both cool and sophisticated, and will set new standards of innovation, driver and passenger experience, and safety.” After 10 years of research and “350,000 hours of groundbreaking engineering and design,” Aeromobil is the world’s first commercially available flying car.
The privately held company, which hails from the Danube Valley region, and whose engineers have worked for legendary supercar manufacturers—Aston Martin, McLaren, Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, and Ferrari—as well as leading aerospace companies—Lockheed Martin, Airbus, and Diamond Aircraft—promises “supercars that fly, light aircraft you can drive, transforming between modes in less than three minutes.”
AeroMobil currently has two vehicle models. The AM4.0 is a two-seater luxury vehicle for personal use. The company plans to begin deliveries in 2024. The AM NEXT is a four-seater the company envisions being used for door-to-door ride-hailing service. Think Aero-Uber, or Bruce Willis’ air taxi in The Fifth Element.
Aeromobil expects to launch a “fleet aerial ride-hailing service” in 2027. The niche for the market would be regional routes from 100 to 500 miles, a distance the company sees as “too far to drive and too short, or inconvenient, to fly.” AM NEXT will provide a luxurious alternative with door-to-door service in a comfortable seat, where passengers can “work, rest, play, or just enjoy the view.”
AeroMobil believes the sky’s the limit for the “Advanced Air Mobility market” and is seeking investors for their next operation phase. One research firm asked to measure “the Total Addressable Market” for the proposed ride-hailing service estimated there’s about $70 billion to be made annually in North America alone. The estimate is based on an in-depth study of 660,000 frequently traveled routes within the electric vehicle’s range.
If you’re curious about performance, actual flight tests have shown the vehicles have an operating range of 600 miles driving and 460 miles flying, and can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour driving and 160 miles per hour flying. The vehicles require 1,300 feet of surface to take off and 980 feet to land. The vehicles also need a couple of minutes to transform from car to plane.
So, Aeromobil can’t take off vertically from a standing start, and it definitely can’t fold up into a briefcase. But having waited this long for a flying car to arrive, we’re willing to overlook those slight drawbacks and just enjoy the ride.